A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
It is true that the scrap of paper is neighboured by more dignified
pictures, but that is no excuse for its own existence. For on its right
there is a magazine photo of a wonderful cloud scene, while on its
left hangs a real photograph of white-mantled Mount Kailas, which
was given me by Yogi Pranavananda when our projected pilgrimage
together was frustrated. But Mr. Charles Chaplin incongruously
occupies the centre of the scene, thus revealing my lack of taste for all
the world to see.
If my highbrow visitor were to make more audible comment
upon my taste than a sniff, and ask why I have hung the thing upon
my living-room wall, I should have to search for an answer. Whether
he would be satisfied with my explanation I do not know, but I
certainly possess strong reasons for the act in my own mind.
Why do I regard the bowler-hatted, baggy-trousered little
Cockney with all the adoration of an unphilosophical cinema fan?
My first answer would be extremely simple. Mr. Charles Chaplin
makes me laugh. This primal activity of his put him into my heart
twenty years ago, when he took the world by storm. I do not regret
having kept him there all this time. He lives there quite comfortably,
even though the long-bearded figure of Philosophy occupies the
adjacent space. I have plenty of room for both, thank heaven. I
have never allowed any of my excursions into life's gravest topics to
push the grey-haired clown out of the guest-room which he occupies.
During all my wanderings in the mystic courts of heaven I have yet
to notice any prohibitory announcement upon the walls proclaim-
ing that laughter is forbidden,
After all, it is better to jest and joke about this ephemeral life of
ours than to imitate the undertaker. Life without its sprinkling of
humour is like soup without salt—it lacks savour. We must laugh if
life is to be made endurable. "If Nature had not made us a little
frivolous, we should be most wretched," declared one of the wittiest
of Frenchmen, and added, ult is because one can be frivolous that
the majority do not hang themselves]" Voltaire was not unduly
exaggerating. Life is mostly tolerable when we laugh at it.
My second answer would be that Chaplin arouses my sympathy.
When this timid nervous figure shambles along the road, apparently
suffering from a permanent inferiority complex, I feel sorry for him.
I see millions of other shy men typified in his person, men whom the
accident of birth has unfitted for the awful struggle of competitive
existence and who consequently shuflBe through life as pathetically as
Chaplin shuffles through his pictures. I feel sorry for them all. Their
helplessness, their misfortunes, their bewilderment in the face of
social cruelties and social callousness, find a focus in the screen
character of this man with a bewildered look in his eyes. We find our-